We can all agree that basement flooding is a nightmare, whether the space is finished or unfinished. Even if you haven’t had to deal with a flood in your basement (count yourself lucky!), you know that flooding is an issue you’ll likely have to confront in the future or, at least, be preemptive about. There are various ways to avoid basement flooding, but typically, the best way is with a sump pump.
Like any other preventative device, a sump pump requires regular maintenance to continue operating efficiently. At this point, you may be wondering, “how do I maintain a sump pump?” or “how much does sump pump maintenance cost?” Fortunately, Mr. Rooter Plumbing of South Jersey has answers to those and other maintenance questions.
Let’s get started!
What Is a Sump Pump?
A sump pump is the first line of protection against basement or crawl space flooding. There are two types of sump pumps: a pedestal sump pump and a submersible sump pump. Both types can be broken down further into various pumps. There are battery-operated sump pumps, water-powered sump pumps, combination sump pumps, and more. But we digress. We’re not here to overwhelm by discussing every sump pump known to man.
A sump pump’s main function is to move water from the lowest point in your home (a basement or crawl space) away from your property. The pump sits in a constructed basin or pit equipped with valves that sense rising water. Once water levels get too high, the pump will activate and drain outside through a discharge line called an effluent.
Why Is a Sump Pump Important?
Despite your best efforts to protect your basement from flooding, water can seep in, destroy personal possessions, and create other significant issues without a sump pump. In fact, water from a broken water heater, leaky appliances, or inclement weather can cause:
- Structural damage
- Cracked walls
- Electrical hazards
- Foundation shifts
- Bacteria to spread
- Mold infestation
While the price to remediate water from your basement can vary depending on the severity of the flood, you could be looking at paying as much as $8,000 in flood damage. Plus, removing an inch of water can cost you around $450 to $2,000. This means you could be looking at water damage cleanup costs starting at $3.75 per square inch.
How Much Maintenance Does a Sump Pump Require?
As a homeowner with a beautifully finished basement and/or expansive crawl space, it’s important to know how to maintain a sump pump. Often, we don’t recommend DIY solutions for complex drainage devices, as an inexperienced approach could create costly mistakes that you’ll (literally and figuratively) have to pay for later.
It’s always best to get professional sump pump maintenance every 6 months, with a more comprehensive diagnostic performed annually. Still, you may need monthly or quarterly maintenance depending on the type of sump pump installed. For example, sump pumps that remove cleaning device water require monthly inlet opening and screen cleaning.
5 Tips to Maintain a Sump Pump
Professional sump pump maintenance is always a must, but there are times when a visual assessment and double-checking minor components is an essential part of upkeep. There are multiple, simple tasks you can complete before an experienced plumber arrives. Below are five of them.
1. Check the Basin
To check your sump pump basin, take the cover off and visually evaluate it. Your basin shouldn’t be full of debris, rocks, dirt, or mud, as any foreign items can clog the pump, causing overflow and interference with proper operation. You can perform this task once a month or after major flooding. Also, make sure the basin is large enough (at least 24 inches in diameter, with a depth of 36 inches) for your sump pump to stand upright.
Not only should you look at and clean out the sump pit, but you should also remove the pump for cleaning. If your pump has dirt and grim on it, use a microfiber cloth and a non-chemical cleaner like dish soap and warm water to give the pump a gentle scrub.
2. Ensure that It’s Plugged In
Sometimes, the simplest precautions can make the biggest impact. It might sound silly, but always make sure your pump is plugged in. You should have two separate plugs for the float switch and motor. Suppose your sump pump suddenly stops working without rhyme or reason. Before contacting one of our plumbers, ensure the motor and float switch are operational by filling the basin with a 5-gallon bucket of water. If your pump has an alarm, it should be triggered, alerting you that it’s on.
For sump pumps without an alarm, the pump should automatically turn on and start pumping out the water. Everything can appear fine until you have flooding, and the water level continues to rise. At this point, it’s a bit too late to ensure your pump is working.
3. Assess the Outlet Pipelines
Water should always be rapidly draining at least 20 feet away from your property. Pour 5 gallons of water into the pit to check how the water is draining through the pipes. Your sump pump should turn on as soon as the water in the basin reaches the maximum level. Even if you’re unsure if underground pipes are free of debris, assess the outside discharge line to guarantee zero obstructions.
4. Purchase a Backup
With a lifespan of up to 10 years, your sump pump maintenance can help prolong life, but it’s always good to have a backup. You may notice operation start to decline around 5-7 years, which is the recommended time to consider a replacement. There are two sump pump backup options: a water-powered pump and a battery-powered backup.
5. Recharge the Battery
A battery-backup sump pump must be plugged in to recharge automatically. It’s an extremely intuitive device that kicks on when the main sump pump’s power source is lost, or an operational or mechanical issue occurs.
Most battery backups can last for several years, recharging continuously. However, you may not get the same optimal operation times you did when it was new. For example, a battery that was once able to run for up to 7 hours might only run for 4-5 hours consistently (1 day on and off) before it needs to be recharged. Charging capacity will decrease over time, and that’s completely normal. At this point, it may be time to opt for a new battery.
Our Vineland plumbers are always happy to take a look at your sump pump and diagnose any problems or perform sump pump maintenance whenever you need it.
We’re ready when you are to support your plumbing. Just call (856) 336-5882, tell us the issue, and relax while we take care of the rest.